As the temperature rises steadily, residents are finding ways to remain cool and avoid staying outdoors during the hottest part of the day. Though many complain that the heat is becoming intense, officials of the Meteorological Department say the maximum temperature continues to remain near normal.
On Wednesday, the observatories in Nungambakkam and Meenambakkam recorded a maximum temperature of 34.6 degree Celsius and 35.9 degree Celsius. This was one degree Celsius above the average. The observatory, however, records maximum temperature in the shade.
The humidity, which is more in coastal areas, also compounds the problem. On Wednesday, the humidity was 77 per cent.
According to Y. E. A. Raj, Deputy Director General of Meteorology, Regional Meteorological Centre, Chennai, said the delayed onset of sea breeze also adds to the intensity of the heat. The heat is relatively severe in Meenambakkam as the sea breeze sets in late compared to Nungambakkam. For the past few days, easterlies bringing cool air prevail from noon to midnight.
Though the city has not received rainfall so far this summer, he said that it was not a matter of concern. Sometimes, Chennai realises its share of rainfall during summer in three or four days.
“We are now monitoring to forecast the onset of the westerly and northwesterly winds that make the temperature soar beyond 40 degree Celsius,” Dr.Raj said. The highest temperature recorded in the last decade was on April 30, 2006, when the Nungambakkam recorded a maximum temperature of 42.1 degree Celsius.
Residents who travel as part of their work wilt in the heat. Senior citizens also avoid going out in the sun as it can disorient them.
T. Esther, a resident of Aminjikarai, says, “It is difficult to travel between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. I wear gloves and cover my head. Yet, the heat tires me.”
Paediatricians have their hands full with children coming for treatment of infections. Hospitals have to treat a range of health problems - from dehydration to infections contracted while swimming.
The swimming pool is an easy place to acquire infections if the hygiene is not maintained well, says Deepa Hariharan, head of Neonatology, Suriya Hospital. Some children develop rashes while others contract viral infections also.
Even newborns require careful monitoring, she says. “We are seeing newborns who suffer from dehydration and jaundice related to dehydration. Mothers must learn the technique of breastfeeding babies adequately,” she adds. Mothers must also monitor the baby's urine output. When children have fever, parents tend to bundle them up. But during summer it is necessary to minimally clothe the child.
Toddlers and preschoolers could suffer from gastroenteritis, diarrhoea, vomiting and sudden bouts of fever with rashes (Exanthems) in summer.
“It is important for parents to continue to feed liquids and identify signs of dehydration such as fatigue and extraordinary thirst. Dehydration leads to general weakness and makes the child susceptible to viral infections, including cold. Children must be continually fed fluids in small quantities,” Dr. Deepa says.
Older children who are sent to camps or play in the sun must also be adequately fed fluids.
Children lose electrolytes when they sweat. They should be given tender coconut or sugared/salted buttermilk and not glucose water or carbonated beverages.
The Meteorological Department forecasts that there is a possibility of /rain or thundershower on Thursday.